Yankees ace Gerrit Cole understand his history. Thankfully, he thought on his feet after Kyle Higashioka tried to give away Nestor Cortes’ immaculate inning ball.
Cortes had 12 strikeouts in just five innings of work — a remarkable accomplishment for a pitcher not known for K’s, either backwards or forwards on the scorecard.
That included a so-called immaculate inning in the fourth, in which Cortes struck out the three Orioles batters in just nine pitches. Perhaps not understanding what just occurred in the game he was catching, Higashioka gave the ball to the fans above the dugout, as is often the case when players are running off the field.
Cole quickly reversed course, however, asking the O’s fans seated next to the dugout for the ball back. Cortes should want his immaculate inning ball as a keepsake.
What in an immaculate inning?
Per baseball reference, an immaculate inning is as follows:
"“An immaculate inning occurs when a pitcher strikes out all three batters he faces in one inning, using the minimum possible number of pitches – nine. The strikeouts can either be of the swinging or the caught looking variety, and there can be foul balls involved. The purest form of the feat would be to have nine swings and misses. The name for the feat only came into widespread use in the 21st century. Once exceedingly rare – there were none between 1929 and 1952 – immaculate innings began to be more common starting in the 1990s and the evolution in the usage of relief pitchers that led to most such pitchers being used for one inning only. During that inning, they can throw as hard as possible, knowing they do not need to keep anything in reserve.”"
How many immaculate innings in mlb history
Per Baseball Almanac, the last immaculate inning took place on Sept. 12, 2021, and was thrown by Max Scherzer, then of the Dodgers. That was the 103rd immaculate inning in MLB history.
That means Cortes’ accomplishment was No. 104. It was the 41st in American League history.